Thursday, June 20, 2013

It's not too late! Celebrate Idaho's rivers by planning a "staycation" on our four best rivers

Ah, rafting on the Salmon River! Life is good! 
Kids reading books? No electronics to divert their attention ... 
The historic Jim Moore homestead on the Salmon River near Campbell's Ferry. 
Dutch oven cooking! 
Happy people! 
Hiking! This is Amanda Damon from Rhode Island. She'd never seen so many mountains ...  
The kids love paddling the double ducky. Thanks Mark! 
Hi all,

After posting pictures from our recent trip on the Main Salmon River - River of No Return, I heard some people say things like "jealous!" and "wish I could go" and of course "beautiful!"

We are blessed with a bounty of awesome, wilderness river trips in Idaho, and the Main Salmon is one of the crown jewels. I also heartily recommend doing a trip on the Salmon, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, the Selway River and Hells Canyon of the Snake.

It's not too late! There's still plenty of time to plan or book a whitewater wilderness vacation with your friends and family. Given how dry it's been this spring, the experts are predicting a big wildfire season in late summer. You'd be smart to plan a river trip in July, if at all possible.

Who go? The Main Salmon is arguably one of the best family wilderness whitewater vacations in America. And it's located right here in our home state in Central Idaho. You camp on spacious beaches with lots of shade afforded by tall stately pine trees. You get to play on the river during the day, and then you can set up the volleyball net on the beach, play bocce ball, hang out and enjoy the scenery, and more. Plus, there's hot springs, history, and Buckskin Bill's and Mackay Bar, where you can buy fresh ice cream for your kids.

River trips are one of the cushiest forms of camping you can imagine. Instead of hauling all of your food and clothes on your back such as in backpacking, the raft carries all the weight. You can bring iced coolers with just about any food items you want, plus you can carry plenty of favorite beverages for the kids and adults.

As you're enjoying the float trip during the week, the members of your floating party bond and get to know each other on a much more personal basis. You will make lifelong friends on the river. And you will fall in love with the river canyon.

The Main Salmon is best suited for families and novice boaters because the rapids are not as hard to navigate as they are on the Middle Fork, Hells Canyon or the Selway. Follow an experienced boater down the river, and you'll learn a ton. My cousin from Rhode Island learned how to row a raft on our Main Salmon trip, and by the time he reached the end of the trip, he had learned a ton, including how to self-rescue in the middle of a rapids! (Chittam).

For the do-it-yourself boating community, the hardest part of getting on the Main Salmon, Middle Fork, Selway or Hells Canyon is drawing a permit. I picked up a cancelation for June 10th in April from, so I had plenty of time to plan a trip and pull together a diverse party of 16 people.

If you still don't have a permit for this summer, watch the web site for last-minute cancelations, and grab a date that works for you. It will likely be easiest to find cancelations on the Main Salmon or Hells Canyon. The Middle Fork will have some cancelations, particularly in later summer, and the Selway is unlikely to have any cancelations, as only 1 launch is allowed per day.

The second way to book a river trip is to go with an outfitter. Idaho is blessed with a multitude of quality outfitters. As longtime businesses operated on Idaho's best rivers, the outfitters receive an allocation of permits for their trips. So you don't need to draw a permit to go with them. You just have to pay the trip fee, which is usually about $1,500 per person. Go to the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association web site, and shop for an outfitted river trip.

Other options are to float the Lower Salmon River below Whitebird to Hells Canyon. This section of river is a great trip for kids and families, and nothing more than a self-issue permit is needed. This is a 4- or 5-day trip, depending on how fast you want to go.

Other possibilities would be to float the Grand Ronde River or John Day River in Eastern Oregon, or the South Fork of the Snake River in Eastern Idaho.
Reminder: the SWIMBA Trail Rendezvous runs from 3-9 p.m. on Saturday at the Eagle Cycle Park.
This is a fund-raising event for SWIMBA's quest to purchase a singletrack trail-cutting machine. They are only $9,000 short of their goal. Sockeye brewing is donating all proceeds from beer sales to SWIMBA. Sockeye has created a new beer called "Trail Digger Pale Ale." I'm going to head over there to drink some beer and support the addition of more singletrack trails in SW Idaho.

Also, see Roger Phillips rundown in the Statesman of a bunch of must-see, must-do cycling events coming up this summer. Thanks Roger!

One of those events is the Blue Cruise, a road ride of 15, 30, 50 and 100 miles, starting in Meridian. The ride this year will benefit low-income kids who need bikes. Donate your old bikes to Blue Cross or the Boise Bicycle Project, and BBP will recycle them for the Bikes for Kids event in late July. More information here.    

Outdoorsy folks in Cascade are getting quite creative with a new event called the Payette River Games. There are all kinds of competitive events going on in Cascade at Kelly's Whitewater Park and other venue, including a kayak competition, beach volleyball, bocce ball, golf, lumberjack, fitness, yoga, you name it! It starts on Friday and runs through Sunday.

Have fun!

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